Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Back to Reality

In 2 days and a few hours of Wednesday morning I think I've survived a "longer than the French" workweek already.  I've slept less in two days than a Montreal to Paris flight.  Talk about back to reality.  The finish line push is always intense.  Here's the output of something that we've put effort to over the last while.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Paths and changes

A few days back we were in a forest near Fontainebleau looking at a choice of paths; interesting of course to be doing so.  The last year has been a bit of a different set of paths, and Tori and I have landed on different paths for post INSEAD than we were on prior.  French phrase of the week: c'est la vie.

New paths have a way of working out too, hopefully for both of us.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Swiss and French bike pics

Trials obstacle in Tori's courtyard.

The girls biking on a peninsula near Gian's flat.

Delicious salted butter for baguettes needs to come from somewhere.

The best way to go check on your sunflower fields is by parking the old Citroen right nearby.

I sure hope farming sunflowers is as happy a task as it seems.

Chateau Relaxation

We visited a 1648 French chateau, decorated in stark white minimalism with simple wooden furniture, drinking Israeli cherry dessert wine until 2am.  Ahhh...

It's neat to see the effort of restoring old buildings; the labour, time and overall resource needed is large.  Also the French have historic consultants/building inspector types to make sure you do it consistent with the time it was built in history.

Filling a big lawn with a lifetime of art is cool too.  The day consisted of walk in forest, walk to look at art, sitting in sun, avoiding rain, eating an apple strudel cake thing while drinking coffee and talking about life in a tea room while listening to Katie Melua, and making dinner together.

Art and flowers.

Life is important.

Takin' care of biznaz.

Relax to the max.

Who likes colored slippers on cool stone floors?

Some decors melt away stress.

Cafe and cake.

Chillin' with coffee is always good.

Rice and curry.

Erik, Gian, Julia, and Tori aiming the camera.  Good times at dinner.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Swiss roads

Swiss roads aren't only good for biking.  In the "we're the same people but born on the other side of the world" vein, Gian and I just went driving on the roads in his 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution little tuner car special. No ABS, no traction control, no power windows, no power anything. Tight aftermarket suspension, all wheel drive, 300hp turbo charged 4 cylinder car with all the extra weight stripped out of it. Yeah!

Lunch in Biel

We're having fun riding with Julia today, and lunch stops need big salami and swiss cheese sandwiches.  I drank some Rivella, which tastes like ginger ale without the ginger, except its milk derivative based.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Vinelz with Gian

After our night in Geneva in an un-air conditioned pension, Tori and I dragged ourself to Vinelz to see Gian.  We did a 5 hour mountain bike loop that approximated a BC Bike Race stage, all kinds of good stuff.  The best way to see a place is with your friendly local guide, especially when you know the kind of riding your guide likes after meeting at a few races (La Ruta, then BCBR) and finding out you're the same bike rider, just born on other side of the planet.  From the doorstep in Vinelz to the edge of Neuchatel and back... that's a gift to have in your "back yard".

We toured the beautiful little Swiss towns, climbed a thousand meters of vertical in scalding heat, did some flowing downhill after traversing open pastures, and checked out a lookout tower.  Up on the bluffs at one point with Lac de Neuchatel in the back.

Lookout ramp with downhill mountain biking trails starting underneath.

Lookout time!

Tonight it rained as we did some fine dining on Gian's patio overlooking the valley from his ultra-modern flat while rain clouds blew in pink lightening lit up the sky.  We talked about the world from a Swiss perspective, what it's like being Swiss on this planet, and the amount of mountain biking at the doorstep tomorrow.

Annecy and Geneva

After our late wakeup (I'm still changing times and we both need a big rest/de-stress catch up), we went for a 2 hour lunch then got ready to ride.

Europe does lake side cities well, not to mention lake side style and summer dresses... uhh but back on track.  We rode around lake Annecy then back on the mountains side, a nice 70k loop with good climbs, fountains and stops for boissons fraiches. 

After swimming in the lake it was a short drive to Geneva, for me a noticeable difference on the road right away since we got into German car turf (almost all BMWs and Mercedes are de-badged though, because Swiss are "understated" - they don't want you to know if that thing in the driveway is the 80,000€ version with the normal engine or the 120,000€ one with the big engine) and lost the little Renault Twingo's that are the size of roller skates and barely do the speed limit.  It's funny how just driving into town in the evening a place can feel like it has its shit together, but so far I see a pretty tidy, organized and luxe Geneva.  There must be something going on as lots of hotels are full, the ladies at the office helped while Tori and I replaced calories at a Mexican joint, and as it turns out, the place they found us was three blocks away.  Perfect.

After a hot hot night of partial sleep its a drive to Vinelz to ride with Gian.

Ready for a road trip euro styles - a little Renault with all kinds of crap jammed in, leaving from Tori's chateau (this is one corner of the lesser side of the chateau, this thing has like 7 wings and probably covers 20 acres before the farm fields... it's massive).

Climbing up from near Faverges on the loop from Annecy.

Further up the climb.  This guy likes riding up Alps any day of the week.

4 hour rides with one bottle in 32+C heat is easy when every town and corner has a fountain.

On the descent to Lake Annecy there's a chateau near Alex.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Who likes Annecy?

French norms

France has a very different machismo.  Male wardrobes that are entirely male here may be interpreted as a bit fruity for the other side of the Atlantic, as thousands of examples have shown.  This scooter, model "Grand Dink", and its driver, left a lot lost in translation.  But somewhere in all this the national style is elevated.

Monday, 19 July 2010


Tori and I rode to her school, went to the market, listened to some music, and picnicked on a rocky bluff in the shade of a coniferous tree in the forest on a trail slightly off the one that goes to school...  but really that was the background for a whole day of chat that we haven't had time for before.  Nap time then dinner at Bistro Neuf and more quality time - dare we say some of the best quality time we've ever had.  We get each other perhaps more than ever before.

These are the paths near Fontainebleau.  Many paths exist after, but we figured this set out.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Petit dejeuner

I usually eat breakfast at my desk.  Walking to le boulangerie through a quaint, sleepy town to bring back baked goods for a preserves, baguette, and pastries (pain suisse esp. is a waistline danger) and oeufs breakfast with French press coffee and some Perrier is a delightful way to start the day.  Especially with the air at skin feeling temperature, no breeze, and the birds singing.

Fleury en Biere

Tori and I did the French shopping trip to Carrefour.  The store was entirely massive and is like superstore, canadian tire, future shop and wal-mart in one.  The extenive 37 checkout aisles were sparsely staffed and this all had a single toilet to serve the customers who drink too much Perrier.  

We then avoided anything like putting bikes together and instead walked the grounds of the chateau.  We spent hours on the couch of her living room in some massive 15th century chateau in Fleury en Biere.  I think we were both more relaxed than we had been in a long long time.  I think we both saw pretty deep into each others' worlds for a while, maybe first time in a while too.  Life is interesting, and this setting is a great way to attempt to distill at least the parts relevant to us... plus the trois fromages and bottle of chilled champagne of course helped.

We dined at Le Relais in Barbizon, which incorporated everything right about French dining - natural farm foods, still night air, a quaint backyard patio.  Raddishes and escargot were brought first just to keep the table occupied; I went for poisson and Tori did a chevre chaud salad.  A big apple pie tart tartin sent us packing, man was that good.

Tori's place has some working lights, a "kitchen" and passably functional plumbing.  It's no 2010 house reno, but then not everything in the world should be.  It's quaint and functional and beautiful and feels just right.  We picked big blooming flower from the courtyard tree outside to decorate the coffee table and bring a little parfum scent to the room.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


Let's just say that after a 2h takeoff delay, it's time to eat the cheese and drink the wine.  How can they seriously say "don't worry, it's just a minor maintenance issue with one of the engines" and expect people to go for the "don't worry" part?  At least we made it over the Atlantic safely.

Monday, 12 July 2010


Yeah, Calgary Stampede is hokey, but it's fun times.  I should wear buffalo skin boots to work year round.

Cannonball run

M Coupe + 94 octane fuel + off peak driving hours + Canada's Rockies + tunes + mountain bike = Grade A weekend; full of thinking time.

Any coincidence the real Cannonball Run record was set by an M5?

Monday, 5 July 2010

BCBR aftermath

Stage 8 isn't really a "day", and it isn't on the itinerary, but this doesn't mean its any less draining.  Big banquet dinner at the Fairmont Whistler, then the night life of Whistler as interpreted at Buffalo Bill's.  Fun was greater than sleep. 

After the bus ride back with Gian, I  slept my way back to the real world.  Always a hard transition.  Let's hope tonight's weather of storm clouds on the horizon isn't the way the week goes.

I've noticed there's a couple things I'm good at in life, maybe finance, two wheeled sports and snowsports.  That's a short list.  Possibly stress management.  But that leaves the remainder of life's tasks for the adequate, mediocre or collectively lesser-of-aptitude categories.  Kinda funny actually.  At the very least it's good those mirror my general time allocation - usually!

32 feels like I'm a wiggling bug in a web; wiggle as hard as you can and the outcome never changes.

I'd take a substitute of more BC single track and racing exertion any day.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

BCBR Day 7

Today was the "XC Race" of the week, a short intense stage.  I woke up feeling groggy and sluggish, but wanted to finish stronger than I started the week.  I almost had a totally  awesome day but will settle for pretty good.

Big gravel climb at the start, different course than last year though.  I started at the back of the A's, and wanted to pace.  Half way up I thought it was going slow, but had a moral debate that pushing out to the side and passing was stupid energy use.  Conservatism didn't win, I rode up to friends I hadn't seen all week - Pat, Andy, Gian, Norm and Wendy, etc.

First problem started here - A group leaders took us into a singletrack descent that was supposed to be used to loop back later.  I should have known as I pre-rode a bit.  If I had gone the right way instead of following the herd, I'd have been up by a few minutes.  So much for independent thought.

We all ducked down and re-climbed the hill, then molded into the B's and had a big group to sort out.  I threw caution to the wind and figured that if I blew in the estimated 1:45 time I'd deal with that later.  We rode up some nice downhill course switchbacks then dropped into "crank it up" which is sculpted jumps the whole way.  It's awesome to be juggling with other riders on double jumps, man it's awesome.

Dropped back to start, then looped through the Lost Lake Zappa trails, all named in Zappa-esque names.  Worked my way forward to a spot I hadn't seen all race, then... front tire started softening.  Had to stop to pump it rock hard and hope it'd seal or just leak slowly enough to make it to the end, the Kiwi's and Gian and a bunch of others flew by.

Great variety of trails, if you don't like stuff out there, you're in the wrong sport.

I tried to chase on, only partially successfully.  Did what I could to the end, and coasted on the downhill finish to end the week.  No idea of place or time, who cares, a short ride doesn't create time differences, but probably a much better finish to the week than a start ; )  it's nice to know there's a bike rider inside somewhere.

Fairmont took my luggage to room so I'm showered and checked in ahead of lines for once, kind of like the good old days, haven't really seen anyone else yet.


Friday, 2 July 2010

BCBR Day 6

I like today's start setup.  First breakfast at 7, second at 7:30, with a wake up call at 6:30.  I woke up at 7:35 after sleeping in my clothes and was done breakfast and back at the tent with my bike at 7:50, no lineups, no hurry up and wait.  Why you need to wake up at 6:30 to start a race 50m from your tent at 9am is beyond me, but whatever.

In theory I should try to limit the streak of my race finishing place matching my age, that'd be a nice trend to invert, however I think it'll be next race not this one.  We'll see how the overall shakes out.

Thomas Tetz of Whitehorse who's riding solo for once without Tamara broke a swingarm yesterday, first time in a while I haven't been able to help someone out with a spare bike.  Looks like he found a loaner last night to continue.

Drew informed us that it'd be a fast start, wanted to get everyone through our 3 minute road closure allotment.  I like having the group strung out at the start as it helps debottleneck the single track.  Having said that, I felt a bit like garbage again off the start, despite a bit of a morning spin.  Was way back in the big peloton and working hard to be there.  Paced tepidly on the gravel climb and first bits of singletrack, then luck rolled my way.

Was dragging along on a 5 person train on a fire road traverse, Jen Schultz was lamenting the accordion effect on the rollers.  I was off the back just to coast faster into the hills so I didn't care too much.  I was eating a little and just hanging around, when all of a sudden I felt two extra gears.  Rode off on next slope and never looked back, rest of the day I had copious amounts of energy to waste without fear of running dry, plus mixed sections of killer Squamish riding.  Gravel roads I just looked up and rode to the next group, then the next after.  Tried to sneak into singletrack sections ahead, looked up and would close in on a rider then go for the next.  We did a big pump track section through the forest which allowed a half dozen passes.  Got to the steep rubble loose part and a bunch of people were walking bikes and told me to dismount because the trail was dangerous.  I snuck by on the right and rolled same as last two years, everyone's perspective is different but accumulated riding and learning over the years (mostly here) make a lot of the stuff just seem routine.  This event is like technical skills boot camp.  Pinned it on every climb and just kept working along, sat in a few groups on the singletrack when there wasn't any spaces or logic to pass.  It's funny how distant "moving forward" felt up to now, but it's fun when it happens.

Best day from a gut feel perspective (last 2/3 anyway), sorta felt like a bike rider, or the one I want to be more of.  Sunny, warm but not scorching, and awesome trails.

No bus/ferry stuff today, so everyone is dispersed out to tents and such to clean up, and I went for massage.  Pat and Andy looked happy and haven't really seen anyone else yet.

If people don't have sh-t eating grins on their faces after a ride like today they either bonked, mechanical'd, or aren't mountain bikers.  Heavenly.

Someone asked if this is a good starter stage race.  I don't know how to rank them, everyone is different in their background experience.  The logistics and routine aren't consistent, people who need that would find this hard.  The overall endurance and aerobic capacity to complete this is lower, it's a shorter race overall, don't need mega sized base to survive it.  However the technical terrain leaves other wear and tear on the body in other ways, if someone has little technical skill and is starting out, this could be a nightmare.  Everyone needs to ask around and figure for themselves.  They're all hard if you push yourself and regardless of which one, a 7 day drain on energy is hard. 

Thursday, 1 July 2010

BCBR Day 5, Canada Day

Rain at start and whole climb.  Big climb, nice fun one.  Chain suck for me, so I had to try to do the middle ring, but I'm not powerful enough to do it all morning at current fitness and weight.  Fun though.  Talked to Regan a little every day, I start hard to stretch the lungs then he comes by in the middle.  I'm going deeper into the hole every day, not recovering up to same level each day as of yet, even with a conscious effort to ride at a sensible pace.  The traverse with all the skinnies is pure joy, this is good skill building riding that's probably more accessible to a broader range of the group, plus less punishing.

Highway 101 descent, which is pure joy on two wheels.  Ranks right up there with heaven I think, and after the first few days of hell and purgatory mixture (inside my body, not the race), it was pretty sweet.  Rode the drop in to it Nutbrown style as I seem to recall it's his birthday either today or close to today, I try but am not super good with that stuff.  Either way, I had it in my mind that it was, and that was motivation to honour his skills.  That steep chute with all the wooden retaining wall drops was on my mind early... positive imagery worked, I just held the line and rolled, it's the temptation to brake that kills you there.

Cold showers after - the shower trucks here are run by goons and are consistently crap year after year on the reliability side.  Funniest was Gian yelling "it's f-cking ice cold" upon entry in the super factual sounding Swiss German accent.  Oh well, an ice cold one after a day in the rain toughens you up, if hypothermia doesn't get you.

Mical made my day with a half eaten sandwich she couldn't finish, funny what can make your day at a bike race!

This might have been a day ago on the ferry, but I just remembered now.  Carena Dean in the fore of the ship with all middle aged three day unshaven men - "is it hot in here or is it just me?".  Uhh, Carena it's you, especially in this crowd, and the fact that you laughed once you figured it out to break the silence made everyone else laugh too. 

I've ridden dowhill the last few days quite a bit with the same pair.  I caught them at one point but it was super hard, then passed when one guy dropped a chain.  I pushed it to stay away, but they reeled me in too.  When I saw them later in the day, they asked if I was the guy riding the Scalpel with the sketchy Ralph's (the only back handed compliment of the trip I'll take thus far).  I'd prefer more traction as the knobs are rounded, but it's funny what you can get by with.